Hello. My name is Chris Graney. Today I begin to write for the Vatican Observatory. I have written a handful of guest blogs in the past, but I have never been a regular blogger. I hope I do not foul this up so badly that this evening I receive a nice phone call from V.O. Director Brother Guy Consolmagno saying, “Chris, perhaps this was not such a good idea. We’re going to have to cut you loose after one post!”
I am a professor of physics and astronomy at Jefferson Community & Technical College in Louisville, Kentucky (USA). Jefferson has a small observatory, and I am one half of a two-man team (the other half being NASA ambassador Henry Sipes) that runs the observatory. I have been at Jefferson since 1990, and while I did my undergraduate work in physics at the University of Dayton and received a Master’s degree in astronomy from the University of Virginia, I have received most of my education from working at Jefferson. I have loved astronomy all my life. Even as a little kid I had an interest. I think this is my mother’s fault—when I was young she used to do things like wake me up in the middle of the night to see a lunar eclipse, or draw my attention to how the position of the setting sun changed with the seasons. In 2004 I happened upon an article in Sky & Telescope magazine that discussed Galileo being the first person to observe a double star (Mizar) through a telescope. That article launched me on a course of research in the history of astronomy. That research has led to many papers published in scholarly journals, and to articles in more widely read publications such as Physics Today and Scientific American. My biggest and most recent publication has been a book, Setting Aside All Authority: Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science Against Copernicus in the Age of Galileo, published last year by the University of Notre Dame Press.
Riccioli was a 17th-century Jesuit astronomer, and so it is probably not surprising that my research led to making the acquaintance of a 21st-century Jesuit astronomer, Br. Guy. I cannot remember exactly how we made contact, but it was via the internet, of course. Recently I invited Br. Guy to come to Louisville to give a public talk for the Louisville chapter of Sigma Xi. It was a great event, with Br. Guy sharing the stage with Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel, a Kentucky-born astronomer who founded the Cincinnati Observatory and died in the American Civil War. You can read about it on Sigma Xi’s Keyed In Blog or watch the video on YouTube. And now Br. Guy has invited me to write for the V.O.
And that is why you are now reading a blog on the V.O. Foundation’s web page by some community college professor in Kentucky. My future posts are likely to focus on science education and outreach to the community at large, on astronomy as a life-long interest, and on the history of astronomy. That is, if Br. Guy doesn’t cut me loose after one post.